Healey on state police troubles: Baker needs 'to lead on this'

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BOSTON — As her office investigates whether any members of the Massachusetts State Police broke the law by accepting overtime payments for shifts they did not work, Attorney General Maura Healey on Thursday said Gov. Charlie Baker needs to "take a leadership role on this issue."

A popular Democrat seen as an eventual candidate for higher office, Healey said the issues plaguing the State Police fall squarely in the lap of Baker, who said this week that "it's important for the State Police to get its act together."

"This is a matter of transparency, accountability and I think it's time that the Baker administration take a leadership role on this issue," Healey said Thursday. "I hope they take these concerns that are rightly raised seriously and move quickly to address these issues. This is about a culture, this is about accountability, this is about transparency. It needs to be fixed and it needs to be addressed now."

State Police Colonel Kerry Gilpin last week announced that an internal audit revealed that taxpayers have covered the unspecified costs of unworked traffic enforcement shifts by troopers. Nine of the 19 State Police members who were to go through hearings in connection with the agency's internal probe chose to retire before the hearings and nine others were suspended without pay.

"The Baker-Polito Administration appointed a new colonel recently and under her leadership, apparent abuses of overtime rules were unearthed and referred for potential criminal charges while she continues to review accountability and supervisory policies to determine opportunities to improve the department's performance. Governor Baker agrees more work remains to strengthen the public's trust in the department, and is working with Colonel Gilpin as she undertakes a thorough review of the State Police," Baker spokesman Brendan Moss said. "Additionally, the Baker-Polito Administration looks forward to the Attorney General's timely review of the Troop E matter so that those who broke the law can be punished appropriately."

Healey said her office's criminal investigation is limited to the allegations of overtime abuse among State Police assigned to Troop E, which patrols the Massachusetts Turnpike. She said the recent Boston Globe report that the salary data for Troop F, which polices the Seaport and Logan Airport and is paid by Massport, was missing from public records kept online since 2010 is Baker's to deal with.

"With respect to the latest allegations, again, I think it's up to the Baker administration to lead on this," she said. "This is about accountability, this is about transparency and the public needs to have confidence in our state departments."

Setti Warren, a Democrat running for governor, this week called on the state Legislature to appoint an independent commission to investigate "systemic problems" in the State Police.

"Over the last six months, one scandal after another has come out of the Massachusetts State Police," Warren said in a statement. "Each time Gov. Baker has claimed surprise and then promised to get to the bottom of it, but each time, nothing has happened."

The former mayor of Newton alleged that Baker "has no idea what is going on in the state police, and there's no evidence that he can reel in the problems with the agency."

The News Service contacted the Public Safety Committee co-chairs this week to ask how the panel might respond to reports of problems at the State Police. Rep. Hank Naughton and Sen. Michael Moore said they were exploring options.

Moore said he has been given no reason so far to lose confidence in Gilpin.

"This should not be the Legislature and the governor fighting each other on this. Hopefully, this is something we'll be able to work together on to rectify what issues there are over there," he said.

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